One thing I always tell my kids is "Safety First". And when it comes to heading out on an icy pond in the wintertime, no truer words have I ever uttered.
The first thing to keep in mind is if someone you are with happens to fall through the ice, call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not try to jump in and save the person. You can throw a branch or rope or PFD (personal floatation device) to the person to help them climb out of the water, but you don't want to get too close to the person or you might also fall through the ice.
The phone number for checking on the safety of the ice for the major lakes in Rhode Island: (401) 667-6200
Now for some safety tips if you happen to fall through the ice on a lake or pond.
If you fall through the ice, you have less than 30 minutes until severe hypothermia... First of all, don't panic!!! This is probably the most important thing to remember on the ice. Panic causes you to lose focus.
Leave all your layers of clothing on! This actually helps trap air and makes you more buoyant!
Turn around and face the direction you were coming from. This area supported your weight already, so it's better to go in a direction you know will hold you rather than try an unknown
Lay your hands flat on the unbroken ice. Use ice picks if you have them. If not, use anything that can give you a bite into the ice, screwdrivers, knives, etc.
Kick and pull to work your way back onto the ice. If your clothing is soaked with water, you may have to pause halfway out to let your clothing drain.
Once you are out of the water, lie flat on the ice. DO NOT STAND! Lying flat will spread your weight out over the ice and help support you.
Roll away from the hole. This is the best way to keep your weight spread out.
Get to shelter quickly! Once in a warm, dry shelter, follow the steps to treat yourself for hypothermia: Strip off your wet clothing and begin to warm up using blankets.